About Me

Twenty years ago I asked a Tarot card reader what would I be doing when I was 50. She replied, “I see you doing something so wildly creative, it defies a job title.” Only recently did I realize that was a slick way of saying, “I have no idea of what you’ll be doing.” But that prediction kept me charging ahead to the fifties with zeal and anticipation. Now that the future is today, I’m ready for anything!

Give Up My Pharmacist? Never!

Tom Sengupta, owner of Schneider Drug in Minneapolis.
When deciding on a health plan, most people choose the plan that lets them keep their doctor or dentist. My choice was determined by whether I could keep my pharmacist: Tom Sengupta, owner of Schneider Drug in Minneapolis.

In the past 15 years I've lived in Minneapolis, in east central Minnesota, and in southeast Minnesota. I've been a customer of Schneider Drug for the entire time, the last 11 years by mail. Comparatively, I'm a newbie; some of Tom's customers have been coming to his store for over 40 years.

It's been difficult for medical and insurance professionals to understand why I visit a pharmacist who is 70 miles away. A specialist at Olmsted Clinic in Rochester asked if I wanted to switch pharmacists, and was probably surprised at my defiant "No!"

I checked with an insurance specialist about whether Schneider Drug was a participating pharmacy. "You live in Dodge Center?," the person asked.

A cornerstone of Minneapolis's
Prospect Park neighborhood. 

"And Schneider Drug is in Minneapolis?"


"Is it a compound pharmacy?"

"I don't know what that is," I admitted.

"A pharmacy where they make the medications," the insurance specialist explained.

"No. It's just a store where they give excellent customer service."


An Ask-Your-Pharmacist Type of Pharmacist
You won't find toys like these
in a big-box drug store.
I discovered Schneider Drug in 1996, when I worked in the Prospect Park neighborhood of Minneapolis. I was pregnant, needed to buy maternity vitamins, and wanted to find a store within walking distance. Schneider Drug fit the bill, with the added benefit of having a retro 1960s feel. Years later, when I'd come in with my son Wyatt, Tom would give him pennies for the gumball machine or a special price on a small toy. Whenever Mike and I were unsure of which cold medicine to purchase, we'd say, "Let's ask Tom." When the best purchase was no purchase, Tom would say so. He'd remind me of when blood tests were due, or explain when formulary (brand name) drugs could be safely replaced by generic drugs.

The Politics of Healthcare
A young Hubert H. Humphrey helped
out at Schneider Drug before Tom owned it.
If you’re a person whose shopping decisions are guided by progressive values, you probably already know about Schneider Drug -- a store where a young Hubert H. Humphrey sometimes helped out at, according to Liz Riggs in this fascinating article. Tom Sengupta is an advocate for universal health care and regularly holds town hall meetings. Back in the 1990s, visiting politicians would ask U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone about health care in Minnesota. Wellstone would tell them, “Ya gotta talk to Tom.” A Wellstone! sign is still prominent in Tom's store.

In 2004, Democratic Presidential candidate Bill Bradley phoned Sengupta while Tom was waiting on a customer. Sengupta apologized and said he had to put Bradley on hold; the candidate understood. The idea of the less-than-dynamic Bradley on hold makes me chuckle. But it's absolutely indicative of Tom's customer-first work ethic. 

One time back in the 1990s I had forgotten to call in my refill,  and Schneider Drug was closed. So I stopped at the Target pharmacy on Broadway in north Minneapolis, where I lived. I showed the pharmacist the empty bottle so he knew where the prescription had been previously filled.

"Schneider Drug. Are they still open?," the Target pharmacist asked.

Paul Wellstone's politics are alive at Schneider Drug.
The next time I was in Tom's store, I mentioned the exchange at Target. As I left the store with my purchase, Tom called after me, "You tell Target we're still here. And we're going to be here for a long time." It was the only time I saw that gentle man's ire up.

The Broadway Target closed in 2003. Schneider Drug is still going strong.

My Pharmacist? You Bet!
I try to avoid referring to service professionals as "my mechanic" or my this or that because they're not possessions. But with Tom Sengupta, I make an exception. Someday Tom will retire. Someday I will have an emergency and will need a same-day prescription. When that day comes, I'll find a local pharmacy. Until then, Tom Sengupta of Schneider Drug is my pharmacist.

Read Liz Riggs' Bridgeland News article about Schneider Drug here. And listen to an NPR story by Michael May below:

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